First, let me state the obvious- if there is one thing that Ohio State Wrestling fans have learned about the Buckeyes this season, it is….“Wait till next year”. While Tom Ryan will field a quality squad this year- with Bo Jordan and Nathan Tomasello putting together monster redshirt seasons, Hunter Stieber coming back off redshirt, and recruit Kyle Snyder being seemingly good enough to contend for an NCAA Title right now, plus Josh Demas coming back, it’s difficult to not look ahead.
Now that I’ve gotten the obvious out of the way- “Vegas” is what really sets the tone for the Buckeye season- The preseason opens will get them a few tough matches here and there, the early season duals are relatively soft compared to the rest of the schedule, but it’s here that the competition really ramps up, with full 32-man brackets filled chalk-full of ranked wrestlers. Vegas is invariable is a huge barometer as to where various Buckeye wrestlers stack up nationally.
Highlighting the tournament will be #1 Logan Stieber vs. #3 Devin Carter at 141, obviously. Carter is currently ranked #3, but I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think that Stieber and Carter are not the “de facto”. #1 and #2. Interesting side note- when Logan graduated from high school, he was ranked #1, Mitchell Port was ranked #2, and Carter was ranked #3 at 125 lbs. Four years later, those three are ranked in the exact same order at 141 in college. Carter is very dangerous, and won a tournament over the off season that Reece Humphrey placed 3rd at (Carter beat the international wrestler who beat Reece). That said, Stieber has always had his number and I see no reason why that will change this weekend.
It’s a big weekend for the following Ohio State wrestlers-
Nick Roberts- Roberts is 14-2, but frankly, to date he does not have a marquee win either last year or this year. In an absolutely loaded weight class this weekend- he could be poised for a breakout weekend, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it just yet given the field. Placement in this group would be a tremendous achievement.
Johnni DiJulius is seeded #4, but the wrestlers seeded above him are maybe not much (if any) better than he is, and the guys that are seeded below him can knock him off if he’s not at his very best- especially the very powerful Rossi Bruno, who he meets in the quarters. DiJulius owns a win over the #3 seed Mark Grey, and wrestled the #1 seed Joe Colon tough in freestyle this summer, at least until he got caught in a trapped arm gut (which has no relevance to folkstyle). I look for him to finish where he is seeded or maybe a place higher. Potential Semi-final opponent Colon is a true hammer, beating 3x All-American Tyler Graff (who beat Logan Stieber this summer in freestyle) by a stunning 6-0.
Ian Paddock- Paddock has gotten off to a slow start so far, no question. I am not certain what the issue is- but he’s better than he’s shown so far, in my opinion. Wrestling above his seed would go a long way toward turning things around.
Mark Martin- Martin didn’t crack the top 13 seeds, despite being a returning NCAA Qualifier. I think Martin showed a lot of progress a year ago, and my feeling is that he can sneak in for a low place.
Kenny Courts- Courts got lots of “love” from the seeding committee and from the Intermat rankings (which have him at #8, despite the fact that he’s a first year starter who really still lacks a truly marquee win). He will face a stiff challenge in Max Huntley in the semis (Note: he beat the 10th ranked Huntley last year in the dual). I think Courts wrestles up to his seed, falling to Schwartz in the finals.
Nick Heflin- There is nobody I am more curious to follow this weekend than Heflin. Of course, Nick has placed 5th at the NCAA Tournament the past two years- which speaks for itself- but with him up two weights, and wrestling very close matches over guys he might have been expected to dominate, the jury is out. It would seem that he’s an NCAA Title contender, when you look at the parity of this weight class- i.e. the complete lack of a truly dominant wrestler (the #1, #2, and #4 ranked wrestlers are all competitors whom previous Ohio State 197 Andrew Campolattano has defeated). We will know so much more after this weekend, as the field here is tough enough that Heflin is the #4 seed.
Nick Tavanello- “Tav” continues to confound me. His senior year in high school, he looked like he lost a step moving up to heavyweight, squeaking to a 3rd state title. Frankly, I thought the Buckeyes might have made a mistake recruiting him. Then last year, he comes out and wins three or four open tournaments, with very few if any losses, and basically looked like a completely different guy. This year, he’s gotten out to a somewhat rocky start in the early going,. Meanwhile- his old arch-rival Ty Walz of St. Edward is the #3 seed and ranked #12 in the nation by intermit (and currently sporting a 9-0 record). Walz never defeated Tavanello in probably a half dozen high school meetings, and frankly was never really close to doing so. I think there is a great chance that this is the weekend Tavanello really shines. One thing we’ve seen about Tavanello over the years- he is a workhorse, and a “battler”. Hard to bet against that combination.
Stay tuned to this site, or of course intermat or flowrestling.org to keep up with how the Buckeyes are doing!